INA, Ill. (Aug. 26, 2013) – As the coal mine industry continues to expand in Southern Illinois, Rend Lake College’s Coal Mine Training Facility grows with it, already bringing students and miners from across the nation to learn and practice on-the-job safety and skills.
Don McBride, Mining Technology Instructor, said he is happy to see the growth in the industry and job market, especially in RLC’s district.
“The coal mine industry is booming and I’m glad that we’re part of that boom,” said McBride. “Coal mines are a large part of our district and they will continue to be in the future. We’re preparing the workforce of tomorrow.”
Dean of Applied Science & Technology Chris Nielsen added that he expects RLC’s training facility to become busier as more locals seek jobs in the area.
“At one time, there were nine mines in our district, and that went down to zero, but it’s going back up,” said Nielsen. “Now we’re training a new workforce to put in those jobs. We’re working with the next generation of coal miners and we’re going to be a big part of their life.”
Recently, the training facility hosted the Murray Energy Corp. Fire Brigade Inner-Company Midwest Regional Contest, where teams of coal miners from three mines in Illinois and Kentucky competed against one another in a variety of challenges and timed-events. The winners will travel to Morgantown, W. Va. on Sept. 20 for the finals.
Other employers have also taken advantage of the training center, said McBride, citing a group of trainees traveling from Wyoming to Ina to use the state-of-the-art space. McBride added that the center is fully booked until November with such trainings.
Currently, the Mining Technology Department is working on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration Brookwood-Sago grant for 2013-14. RLC received this grant twice in the last few years, and Nielsen said the money will help expand the firefighting facility on the Ina campus.
“The grant will be dual use, for both our coal mine students and civilian fire fighters. We get to use the local fire fighters as our instructors, so our students learn from the best,” said Nielsen.